The systematic resignation of nine Labour MPs from the party in recent days strengthens Jeremy Corbyn’s position as leader, Unite the Union General Secretary Len McCluskey has claimed.
Speaking following the resignation of the ninth MP from the party in the space of just one week, Mr McCluskey predicted more MPs would follow suit.
While not downplaying the defections, he said in an interview with the Chronicle: “In some ways, and this might sound slightly perverse, it strengthens Corbyn, it doesn’t give him any bother.”
“These are individuals who have one common link and that is that they have opposed Corbyn from the moment that he was democratically elected by a landslide.”
“They don’t like Corbyn,” he added.
“They don’t like the kind of transformative programme that Corbyn stands for and that almost took us within touching distance of power in 2017 at the last general election.”
“The general consensus was that if the election had gone on another fortnight Corbyn would have become Prime Minister.”
“And they don’t like Corbynism,” Mr McCluskey said, adding: “They are much more committed to the neo-liberalism of New Labour of Blairism which fails the British people and which is why the people have swung towards Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.”
He highlighted how, since Mr Corbyn was elected, the Labour party in Britain is now the largest political party in Europe.
“That is a staggering fact,” insisted Mr McCluskey, adding that the party’s membership had grown from 180,000 members to 400,000 since Mr Corbyn took the helm.
“These defections by this splinter group, I wouldn’t dismiss it because obviously the public don’t like any political party that they feel is not united, but once you get over the initial shock of that you may look back in some years ahead and say that was a good thing because these people are constantly sniping…”
Additionally, Mr McCluskey said the defectors have focused their time on attacking Mr Corbyn instead of helping Labour pursue a “transformative set of values” including the establishment of regional investment banks that have the remit to invest in regional industries, building homes and abolishing tuition fees.
“These people who have split away just disagree with that, they’ve got nothing to offer,” he said.
“So expect more to go, they’ll be a drip feed of them,” he added.
Dudley North MP Ian Austin, a former Minister for the West Midlands under Gordon Brown, became the ninth Labour MP to quit the party when he tendered his resignation yesterday morning citing Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
But, in doing so, Mr Austin said he had no plans to join his eight former colleagues in the new Independent Group they had set up this week although he added: “I agree with them that the Labour Party is broken under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. I agree with them, as well, that British politics needs to change”.
He told the Press Association that other Labour MPs were considering their positions under Mr Corbyn.
“I’m sure lots of Labour MPs are grappling with this issue, all the time. I’m sure they are – 174 of them voted against him in a motion of confidence.”
“They don’t think in their heart of hearts that he is fit to be prime minster either.”
He said he could never ask his constituents to make Mr Corbyn prime minister, claiming the Labour leader and shadow chancellor John McDonnell “cannot be trusted with our national security and would undermine our democratic institutions”.
A party spokesman said: “He was elected as a Labour MP and so the democratic thing is to resign his seat and let the people of Dudley decide who should represent them.”
Mr Austin refused the call to trigger a by-election.